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The transport game-changer

By [email protected] - 25th August 2015 - 10:12

Highway agencies are under constant pressure to direct limited resources where they will deliver the most benefit, whether thatâs achieving service level targets or investing in capital projects. That means balancing groups of factors that are commonly in tension: economic, operational, environmental, social and political. To overcome these issues and challenges, many engineers and planners are turning to sophisticated asset management techniques.â©

For decades, highway agencies focused on regular preventative maintenance and prioritisation based on the conditions of assets. But that focus is shifting. Over the past few years, engineers have started implementing whole-life models for multiple types of assets. Models, such as PAS 55 and ISO 55001, aim to sustainably fulfil all performance measures (reliability, cost, safety, availability and revenue) at the lowest cost (capital, operating, maintenance and renewal) over an assetâs lifetime. â©

Central to this approach is the need to collectively assess datasets from a broad range of operational functions, asset types, business systems and databases. The upside to leveraging such a broad pool of data is that it places greater emphasis on evidence-based decision-making to inform operations, optimising the balance between maintenance and renewals. The downside is the source records are typically spread across disparate and unconnected systems. â©

For engineers and planners, the challenge has become less about identifying and collecting more asset data to feed whole-life models, and more about adopting information and communication technology solutions that will integrate existing asset data with other enterprise management systems, enabling faster and more accurate analysis and reporting. â©

Bringing disparate asset data togetherâ©

Thatâs a huge hurdle for highways engineers. To truly analyse performance, engineers and planners need an efficient method to integrate asset data with operational and financial data from their existing enterprise management systems. â©

However, once itâs achieved (see box), with asset data connected to other enterprise management systems, they can streamline their workflows in design, cost estimation, construction and maintenance timelines, asset performance analysis, and reporting. Data integration is critical to helping engineers and planners build a foundation for evidence-based strategies for asset maintenance and renewals. â©

Turning enterprise asset data into actionâ©

For highway engineers, analytics and dashboards provide greater insight into patterns and variations in asset condition and performance. For example, engineers and planners can track and assess normal wear-and-tear of assets, environmental degradation and risk to assets, and frequency of incidents. Then, they are able to triangulate these datasets with annual budgets, workforce allotment and other maintenance or renewal projects already in progress. Analytics and dashboards help engineers sort through the data noise to address the issues that need the most attention.â©

Today, thereâs a fine balance between maintenance versus renewals for highway agencies. Previously, when engineers focused on regular preventative maintenance and prioritisation based on the condition of assets, the decisions to maintaining or renewing assets were more cut and dry. However, those decisions might not have been optimal for increasing or sustaining asset performance at the lowest cost possible from a long-term perspective. For example, it can work out cheaper to reengineer a whole section of road to address an underlying issue than continually make repairs at an elevated frequency.â©

In a whole-life asset management model, making maintenance and renewal decisions is more complex. Multiple variables and datasets are used to identify where itâs most cost effective to repair or replace infrastructure assets. The challenge for engineers is in analysing and interpreting the data to create strategies that will boost asset performance, maintain safety, and increase service quality for long-term benefits. And that challenge is compounded if they donât have adequate information and communications technology to bring data together.â©

A tipping point?â©

But based on our experience with transport organisations, they clearly need and want to rethink how they plan and prioritise maintenance and renewals. Proactive agencies are already implementing whole-life models for asset management and leveraging technologies to direct limited resources where they will deliver the most benefit.â©

James Brown is an executive consultant at Intergraph (

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